Some friends of mine got into a sticky spot in Ireland recently when the wife’s wallet was lifted, leaving them with no credit cards and very little cash. They had a debit card, but they had to call home to get someone to deposit more money into that account.
It got me thinking about some close calls I’ve had, and the steps I now take to ensure a steady money supply when I’m traveling.
I use an ATM card, in the United States and abroad. It’s safer than carrying a lot of cash and it’s more convenient than using travelers checks. Redundancy can be critical, though. Two years ago in Russia my ATM card stopped working, and we had to finish the trip relying only on my husband’s card for rubles.
I’ve learned not to carry my ATM and credit cards together. I distribute them among my party and on my person so that if one is lost or stolen, we’ll have the others. (And that’s exactly what happened to us in Montréal.)
To that end, I often use a money belt tucked into my waistband or under my jacket. At least one credit card and the bulk of my cash go in it. Sometimes the passport, too.
I also call my credit card companies before a long trip to let them know where I’ll be going. Unusual expenditures in exotic places can trigger a hold on a card. (It happened to my husband in Las Vegas.)
I usually don’t bring my checkbook on a trip, but I always bring a single check. If all else fails, I can cash it at an American Express office.
A photocopy of my passport, kept separately from the original, also comes with me. It could come in handy for cashing that check.